Shoe designer Antonio Brown claims Louis Vuitton committed trademark infringement with footwear confusingly similar to his LVL XIII brand
In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Southern District Court of New York, Harlem-raised cobbler Antonio Brown and his LVL XIII Brands Inc. charges that LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton has committed trademark infringement by placing metal nameplates across the toe boxes of its On the Road footwear collection.
The plaintiff claims that the “inherently distinctive” nameplate that was launched in early 2013 has already become a recognizable product signature, thanks to celebs including Chris Brown, Jason Derulo and Tyson Beckford wearing the LVL XIII shoes in television appearances and magazine features.
The lawsuit claims that in February 2014, Vuitton, a 160-year-old French company with an international presence, began “to compete unfairly with LVL XIII by selling footwear using trade dress that is confusingly similar to the LVL XIII toe plate and which impinges on the goodwill in it.”
Brown tells us that not only is he upset about what happened, but about who did it as well.
“I really respect the brand,” Brown told Confidenti@l. “I was a little distraught that this had happened.”
According to Brown, Vuitton’s global marketing machine has helped it claim credit for his idea.
“Buyers were calling me a copycat!” he said.
A rep for Vuitton counters, “The lawsuit is entirely without merit, and the company will vigorously defend itself.”
This isn’t the first time Louis Vuitton has been accused of borrowing a shoe design. In 2009, the conglomerate settled a lawsuit with New Balance, which contended that Vuitton’s Minstrel shoe was a ripoff of the NB 574.
After the settlement, Vuitton released a statement conceding that “in the interest of reaching a resolution with New Balance, Louis Vuitton has discontinued selling the Minstrel shoe. Respecting and protecting the integrity of intellectual property is essential, and is a top priority for Louis Vuitton.”
The court papers filed by LVL XIII (pronounced Level Thirteen), reads like a press release. “They are made of two p-grade leathers and exotic skins in a variety of unique, flamboyant and distinctive designs and combinations,” it states in one very descriptive paragraph.
Vuitton has until Thursday to address the LVL XIII claims.